The Labyrinth: What do we follow?

All experience is preceded by mind,
Led by mind,
Made by mind.
Speak or act with a peaceful mind,
And happiness follows,
Like a never-departing shadow.

– The Buddha, “‘We are what we think.”

Traquair_House_Maze

Traquair House Maze, used by common license from commons.wikimedia.org

Labyrinths and mazes are often thought of as the same thing, or as very similar things.  Those who work with labyrinths over time begin to see it differently.  Mazes can be fascinating puzzles to work and play with, but that’s what they are.  They are puzzles to be figured out.  They offer a mental challenge: avoid dead ends and find the prize.  The prize might be finding one’s way to a center point or finding one’s way through to the other side. The prize is always some goal to be attained: to have fun, to get the prize, to excercise the mind, to prove that one can “do it.”

Flickr_-_brewbooks_-_Labyrinth_at_Wychwood_(1)

Labyrinth at Wychwood, used by common license from Flickr

A labyrinth has one path, usually just one entrance, and the path always leads to the center of the labyrinth.  There is really nothing to figure out.  There is only the invitation to walk the path, put one foot in front of the other.  The path always takes one to the center, but does so by taking one back and forth, up and down, turning, turning, turning.  At many given points, the labyrinth walk makes one wonder if this path can take one anywhere. Very often labyrinth walkers report their surprise that just as they began to give up hope that this path was taking them anywhere, suddenly they found themselves at the center. The center point strangely feels . . . what?  I have heard many say: like home, like my heart, like something new and something familiar, still, like Silence welcoming me.

The Buddha taught that all experience is preceded by mind:  led by mind, made by mind.  I wonder if today we approach our lives more like a maze or more like a labyrinth.  There may be elements of both in the way we go about this day, but we might also be able to choose.  How do we find ourselves entering the path of this day?  Having entered, is there a goal that we MUST attain?  Is there a puzzle to figure out?  Is there something to be conquered?  That is exactly how our culture tends to portray the successful life.  Is it possible to enter today’s path as one walking a labyrinth, one foot after another, knowing, trusting, despite momentary indications to the contrary, that we will end up at the center point which welcomes us?

Bob Patrick

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